Film Review: Out Of Blue

Writer-director Carol Morley’s Out of Blue is an atmospheric mystery. Although it is imperfect, the film has enough to commend it.

A the body of a prominent astrophysicist is found in an observatory. Detective Mike Hoolihan leads the investigation, and finds herself more involved than expected…

Based on Martin Amis’ Night Train, Carol Morley offers a decent hook with Out of Blue. Viewers are presented with a grisly crime scene, and a detective intent into solving the case. The mystery in the film is multi-layered. There is the mystery of identity of the killer, and this is the focus of Morley’s film for the first half.

When the mystery is seemingly solved, protagonist Mike refuses to stop investigating, focusing on the Rockwell family. The further, more ethereal mystery is Mike’s connection to the case. Morley presents what seems to be visions, keeping viewers guessing as to exactly what Mike is seeing and hearing.

Protagonist Mike Hoolihan is well drawn. A hardboiled detective, who is also a recovering alcoholic, Mike at first seems like an archetype. Yet she develops into a much more three-dimensional character as narrative progresses. Her relentlessness is both endearing and frustrating. The cast of characters is a highlight of Out of Blue. The minor characters, sometimes eccentric, provide a good contrast to the sombre personalities of Mike and the other detectives. 

The first third of Out of Blue is holds the attention. The crime and the investigation is engaging as the cast of characters is revealed. There is a bit of a sag in the middle section of the film, once the crime has been solved yet Mike will not let go of the case. The film recovers from this in the final act, as Mike starts to draw conclusions, and act on them. Although it is signposted much earlier, the climax of the film is still satisfying.

Performances in the film are good all round. Patricia Clarkson makes a believable weathered detective, whilst Jacki Weaver and James Caan stand out as the victim’s parents. Devyn A. Tyler is also decent in a supporting role. The use of music does a great deal to create atmosphere.

With The Falling and now Out of Blue, Carol Morley is carving out a niche in mysterious with an otherworldly feel. It will be interesting to see what she tackles next.

Out of Blue is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital on 2nd September 2019.

Film Review: Animal Kingdom

The message that violence begets violence is rarely illustrated more clearly than in a film such as Animal Kingdom. David Michôd’s drama is compelling, and brimming with great performances.

After Joshua ‘J’ Cody’s mother dies of a drug overdose, he goes to live with his grandmother and her family. J becomes trapped between his criminal family and the detective who is after them; whichever path he chooses is dangerous…

Animal Kingdom is rather slow moving, but is compelling for audiences willing to give it a try. The narrative unfolds gradually; at the beginning it is unclear exactly what kind of direction the film will take. In exploring the family dynamics and J’s discomfort, Animal Kingdom is engrossing.

Animal Kingdom focuses on the character of J. The majority of scenes feature the protagonist, and viewers certainly identify with the teenager above all other characters. It is through his eyes that the audience sees his extended family, and the dynamics of their relationship. J’s difficulty in knowing how to react to situations with them and their dealings is something that most will be able to empathise with.

The dialogue in Animal Kingdom appears very natural. The characters interact in a very believable manner. The picture painted by Michôd is convincing in its depiction of crime and policing in Australian suburbs. Although the violence can be shocking, it is never really unrealistic.

Performances are great all round. James Frecheville is well cast as J. He acutely captures the awkwardness of the character. Ben Mendelsohn is great as Pope, conveying the character’s creepy exterior. Guy Pearce is solid as police detective Leckie, although his high billing is solely down to star name rather than the size of his role. Stealing the show, however, is Jacki Weaver as family matriarch Janine Cody. Weaver is excellent in the role, which is more complex than it originally seems. As the film progresses, it becomes clear just what a pivotal role Janine plays in her family’s affairs. Weaver is fantastic in Animal Kingdom, and thoroughly deserves the praise she is receiving.

Animal Kingdom is tragic in a number of ways, not least the fate of young J. It offers a negative but not improbable view that those who grow up with troubled backgrounds are doomed to repeat what they see. The entire Cody family is tragic, but it is of their own making. Animal Kingdom is an affecting film, one that is certainly worth the watch.